22/06/2006

Skype offers US users free international calls

In order to promote value added services like SkypeOut, US Skype users are being offered 60 minutes of free calls to 30 international countries.

Skype has already offered Canadian customers free calls to Canada or the United States until the end of the year.

Though Skype has a huge installed base, most customers use Skype for Skype to Skype calls/chat and don't use value add services, which is where Skype make their money. With competition hotting up (Gizmo project, Microsoft's Live Messenger, Yahoo and others) Skype need to maintain their lead and get their users to start paying for things. Ebay will soon have a SkypeMe button available to sellers allowing buyers to directly ask sellers questions.

Skype software is also being embedded into devices like VoIP phones and even mobile phones, but there may be problems as mobile operators block VoIP services as they lose revenue on voice calls.

Skype, as a peer-to-peer service, requires supernodes in the network to ensure NAT'ed users can communicate with each other. Supernoded users have all their bandwidth utilised by Skype - which isn't good for say company networks. Skype don't tell users how to diable this functionality and so many network managers are just blocking Skype altogether.

Though Skype is a useful too, for it to become a real business solution, Skype need to allow users more control of what it's doing behind the scenes.

O2 buys Be

O2 the UK mobile operator (now owned by Telefonica of Spain) has agreed to by Be a UK broadband provider for £50m. This may seem a lot for an ISP with only 10,000 customers, but the other options available to them would likely cost more.

Orange have followed Carphone Warehouse's "free" broadband offering, Vodafone have indicated they want to offer broadband/fixed line services too.

Orange had it easy as they already had a broadband division (Wanadoo), but other mobile operators would have to start from new or buy an existing broadband provider.

In the UK that gets difficult, there are only a few LLU operators. Wanadoo (well Orange) are out of the picture, it's unlikely O2 could get the TalkTalk service as that would probably mean buying Carphone Warehouse, the same for Bulldog (C&W) and Easynet are owned by Sky.

That really only left Be. They're a tiny operator compared to the others, but they have gone into 150 BT Exchanges with more planned and they were the first with ADSL2+ (24Mb/s). With the cash the O2 bring with them and their marketing O2 could push them forward and make them a leading broadband provider, which O2 can then bundle with mobile deals.

So £50m probably isn't really that much compared to what they'd have to pay to do something else. The owners of Be must be enjoying their fruits though.

20/06/2006

New Infrant Radiator OS Beta out

Anyone using an Infrant NAS should have a look at the features on the new beta Infrant forums, it now supports 2TB volumes which will at last allow 4 x 750GB disks to be used (though some of the space will go unused, this is expected to change before it comes out of beta).

Anyone looking for a lot of home/business storage should seriously look at Infrant and their solutions. They aren't the cheapest, but they perform exceptionally well while supporting lots of network protocols (NFS, CIFS, AFS, HTTP/S, WebDAV, FTP and more). They're also incredibly easy to install and maintain.

Google releases SketchUp for Mac

The free version of SketchUp now supports Macs as well as Windows. Users can import various 3D file formats, including those used in Google Earth.

Users can also upload their SketchUp content to a gallery (if they've got a Google username).

This adds another notch in the bedpost of Google apps available, which must be terrifying their competitors. Where will it stop?

Adobe releases Lightroom Beta3

Adobe has released the 3rd beta of their professional photo workflow software. It's still available only for Macs (though is Universal so works on both PowerPC and Intel Macs), but a Windows release is promised later this year.

It's got many new features suggested by developers and now supports Camera Raw 3.4 which supports some of the newer cameras.

This will directly compete with Apple's Apperture which is their professional package for the same market.

BlueRay to appear next week

BlueRay players and discs are set to launch in the US next week, they'll also be some titles released along with the players. These are "50 First Dates," "The Fifth Element," and "The Terminator.". "Ultraviolet," will launch simultaneously with the DVD version on June 27. Movies due for release in July include "Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction," "Stealth," and "A Knight’s Tale.".


The Samsung BD-P1000 (player) will retail for about $1000 and discs for about $20 each. The Toshiba HD player costs about half the price ($500).

Companies are working on dual-mode players, but these aren't expected until 2007 at the earliest.

BlueRay to appear next week

BlueRay players and discs are set to launch in the US next week, they'll also be some titles released along with the players. These are "50 First Dates," "The Fifth Element," and "The Terminator.". "Ultraviolet," will launch simultaneously with the DVD version on June 27. Movies due for release in July include "Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction," "Stealth," and "A Knight’s Tale.".


The Samsung BD-P1000 (player) will retail for about $1000 and discs for about $20 each. The Toshiba HD player costs about half the price ($500).

Companies are working on dual-mode players, but these aren't expected until 2007 at the earliest.

SonyEricsson introduce JP-7 for new mobile phones

JP-7 is the new Java implementation for new SonyEricsson phones. It's main feature is that it supports a multi-tasking JVM (Java Virtual Machine), which allows more than one Java program to run at once, they've also added various multimedia enhancements including 2D and 3D acceleration and direct camera access through the Java interface. They've directly supported Nokia's UI API too.

The list is: -

CLDC 1.1 (JSR 139)
MIDP 2.0 (JSR 118)
Wireless Messaging 1.0 and 2.0 APIs (JSR 120/205)
Mobile Media API (JSR 135)
Java Technology for the Wireless Industry (JSR 185)
Java API for Bluetooth™ (JSR 82) (optional)
PDA Optional Packages for the Java ME Platform (JSR 75)
Web Services API (JSR 172)
Advanced Multimedia Supplements (JSR 234) (camera capabilities)
Mascot Capsule Micro3D Version 3
Mobile 3D Graphics API for Java ME (JSR 184)
Nokia UI API 1.1

Phones currently supported are the K610, K790, K800, W710, W850 and Z710 which are meant to have the best games performance for any phones on the market.

Siemens and Nokia join forces

Read the full article at Digital Lifestyles.

Nokia brings a mobile infrastructure division and Siemens their broadband and fixed network expertise. Nokia were in the fixed space but pulled out due to heavy competition and poor market share.

Now with the market moving towards next generation networks, triple and quadruple plays, they've decided they need to be able both parts of the picture. Their combined efforts may just be able to pull it off. Lucent and Alcatel also saw leverage of economies of scale and combined sales channels.

Part of their worries must come from the far east, especially China, where companies like Huawei are making huge inroads into the telecoms and ISP markets - directly competing with the incumbant vendors.

Siemens has already sold off its loss making mobile phone division to BenQ, which gives BenQ solid radio technology and a large retail channel as well as making them a larger player from the tiny player they were. They're probably hoping for the success of the SonyEricsson partnership which took Sony's style and combined it with Ericsson's radio knowledge.

If Nokia can leverage the synergies of the two companies they stand a chance of surviving this harsh market and may well be around in 5 years time.

Robert Scoble leaves Microsoft

Robert Scoble, otherwise known as The Scobleizer, Microsoft Geek Blogger has left the company. Is it a coincendence that Mr Gates announced his departure a couple of days later?

Probably not.

Scoble will be missed in the blogging community as he was open in criticising the company he worked for, and being positive for the right things. He's now gone on to do his own video blogging and hopes to earn an income from this in his own right.

Whether he receives the same momentum now he's on his own is to be seen. The whole thing about his blog (and speaking at conferences) was his openness about Microsoft, now he's not an employee he's just a voice in the wilderness ranting about life in general (as are most bloggers, this included) and that may be his downfall.

Apple Releases Shake 4.1

Apple have released version 4.1 of Shake their compositing software allowing simple retouching or complicated multi-plane 3D effects.

This is the first Universal binary version of Shake (i.e. works on both the older PowerPC and new Intel Macs).

What will of most interest to users though is the price, which has been dropped from £1,999 (inc VAT) to £329 (inc VAT) which now puts it firmly in the hands of the mass of Final Cut Studio users out there. It supports HD, 2K and 4K image procesing.

Apple are promoting use on their new MacBook range to be used for continuity work, they are also Intel based (and the Mac Mini isn't really suited for heavy duty working).